Branson cash must ensure ferry has a firm future

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There have been intercontinental airlines, transatlantic balloon flights, plans to put tourists into space, an intercity train service, a foray into Formula One and now... the Hayling Ferry.

Some might believe entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson’s £5,000 donation to keep the quaint and much-loved little boat afloat is Virgin on the ridiculous.

After all, as one of the richest men in the world, he could easily buy the whole thing and run luxury yachts across the mouth of Langstone Harbour forever and a day.

But that is not what the man is about.

He is the ultimate Dragon who did not get where he is today by throwing his money at lost causes.

His £5,000 investment is philanthropic. He will get no financial return on it but, of course, we must not forget he is a master at spotting publicity opportunities.

That aside, what he has done has virtually guaranteed the return – after an 18-month hiatus – of the ferry that means so much to so many. Now it must be marketed aggressively to ensure its long-term future is safe.

Sir Richard’s cash will doubtless inspire more donations and investment to bring back from mothballs the quirky link between Portsmouth and Hayling Island.

And after all he has strong connections with the harbour both in and out of the water.

He has been a big supporter and active participant in Hayling’s Virgin Kitesurfing Armada. And across Chichester Harbour at West Wittering is his mother’s weekend retreat.

He tells The News today: ‘When we heard about the difficulties the much-needed ferry was having, we knew we had to step up and do our bit.

‘Hopefully now we will soon see the remaining funds raised and the ferry returning back to action.’

When that happens the new operators might consider a fresh name in tribute to the man who helped save it.

Remember HMS Pickle, the little schooner which was at the Battle of Trafalgar and was the first to bring home news of Nelson’s victory and death?

How about Branson’s Pickle?